Nearly a full year ago, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Sean Spence vowed to beat the odds when talking to the media about his attempted comeback from a severe knee injury suffered during the 2012 preseason finale that forced him to miss his entire rookie season.
“I’m going to continue to attack this like I’m going to play this year,” Spence said after watching a 2013 OTA practice. “I’m in meetings and preparing as if I’m practicing. I’m just going to continue to get better and I’m looking forward to the season.”
If not for a finger injury suffered in his first practice back last October after spending most of the year on the Steelers PUP list, Spence may have very well delivered on his promise. Instead, the Miami product needed surgery on his busted finger and it resulted in him being placed on injured reserve for a second straight season.
While many players would have likely taken what happened to Spence last season as a sign that they just weren’t meant to ever play again, the Steelers former third-round draft pick sees the setback as a positive after initially being understandably upset.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” said Spence in a recent interview with Teresa Varley on steelers.com. “It gave me more time to heal, more time to learn. The knee held up pretty good last year when the bullets started flying in practice and that was my first time having contact in a year. It felt good on my knee. It didn’t bother me much. This offseason I had more time to train and rehab and going through the offseason workouts I felt good.”
With the Steelers first set of 2014 OTA practices set to get underway on Tuesday, Spence will once again be able to join his fellow teammates on the practice field and where there was once pessimism from Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler in that it would take a miracle for the young linebacker to ever play again, there is now optimism.
“From what I’ve seen on the field, I know I said about a year or so ago that it would be miraculous if he came back, and I hope he proves me wrong,” said Butler during the 2014 NFL Draft. “It is getting really close to being miraculous. He looks real good to me. We will see how the knee holds up when he starts hitting and things like that. Right now I’m real encouraged by the way he looks. He is such an exceptional young man and you hope that it works out for him, and I think it will.”
While I have had my doubts that Spence will ever be able to make back from the peroneal nerve damage that he suffered, it still doesn’t mean that I’m not rooting for him. How can you not? He’s worked so hard to get to this point despite all naysayers such as myself and the fact that he’s reportedly been given a clean bill of health to practice once again speaks volumes.
“People are going to doubt you no matter what. I don’t pay attention to the doubters,” said Spence. “I am just going to do what I can and that’s keep working. I always kept faith. I knew if I continued to trust God and have faith I would get through it. There were a lot of bumps in the road but I am starting to see the light now.”
Here’s to hoping that the next several weeks of OTA practices results in Spence playing underneath those lights once again. Nobody deserves it more than him.